Seeing Chu Lian nod in satisfaction, Senior Servant Zhong had the urge to cover her face in shame.
When they were done with breakfast, Chu Lian rested for an hour before heading to Qingxi Hall to give her daily greetings to Matriarch He.
The matriarch was already getting on in age, so she didn’t sleep much, especially in a hot summer like this. She had already been up for a while.
When Chu Lian reached Qingxi Hall, the matriarch had just finished her breakfast.
Chu Lian greeted her in the traditional manner of a junior family member, and Matriarch He waved her forward with upturned, smiling eyes. “Sanlang’s wife, come sit by Grandmother’s side.”
Chu Lian sat down on the low stool a step below the matriarch. She looked at Matriarch He as she asked, “Grandmother, is there any news from my husband?”
She had just been married to He Changdi for a few days and the two of them hadn’t consummated their marriage. He Changdi had even treated her with the equivalent of a cold shoulder. No matter how outstanding his looks were, Chu Lian had no feelings for him at all.
She was simply acting the part of a devoted wife for the matriarch’s sake.
Although she didn’t like He Changdi’s actions, she liked the matriarch. Since the second day of her marriage, during the tea ceremony, she could see the genuine care and concern this old granny held for her.
Chu Lian wouldn’t let anyone who treated her well be sad.
Matriarch He sighed and stroked Chu Lian’s soft head of hair. “That Sanlang is really… Sanlang’s wife, please don’t worry too much about him. I’ve already asked Dalang to send people out with inquiries. There’ll be news soon.”
Chu Lian obediently nodded; she didn’t look like this news particularly surprised her, or was anything really special. However, it was this lack of expression that caused the matriarch’s heart to ache in sympathy.
She had been the one to plead with the empress dowager for a girl from House Ying, but now, that girl had to suffer living like a widow while her husband was still alive. Thus, she felt a little more guilty compared to the other members of the family.
Chu Lian noticed the gloom creeping onto the matriarch’s face and hurriedly tried to change the topic. “Grandmother, what did you have for breakfast today?”
Immediately after she asked, Chu Lian almost blushed with shame. What was wrong with her? The only topic she could come up with was related to food?
However, she couldn’t take back her words, so the only thing she could do was suppress her blush and look up at Matriarch He. The matriarch could see the embarrassment on Chu Lian’s face, so she burst out into laughter.
“What’s wrong? You didn’t have enough to eat in your own courtyard?”
Chu Lian blushed at Matriarch He’s teasing. Of course she had eaten her fill! Half a basket of soup dumplings had gone into her stomach! Even now, Chu Lian still felt bloated.
Matriarch He was already old. Her daughters had already left the estate a long time ago, and her daughter-in-law had given birth to three sons. When Madam Zou had married into the estate, she had already been over twenty years old. Matriarch He hadn’t had the company of young ladies around the age of fifteen like Chu Lian in a long time, so she cherished seeing her innocent reactions even more.
When she saw that Chu Lian was already flushed and didn’t know how to answer, the smile on her face grew. “Grandmother doesn’t have a very good appetite in the summer. I only ate half a bowl of red bird’s nest. When you return to your courtyard, I’ll let Senior Servant Liu bring half a kilogram of it for you later. You’re still growing at your age, so you should make sure you have enough nutrients.”
Although Chu Lian had never eaten red bird’s nest before, as an experienced gourmet enthusiast, she knew that red bird’s nest was the best quality of bird’s nest available. Most of the nobility in the Great Wu Dynasty ate white bird’s nest, two whole grades lower than red bird’s nest.
Matriarch He’s red bird nest probably couldn’t be bought with money, and most likely came from the palace. The matriarch was good friends with the empress dowager, so it had probably been a gift.
Chu Lian didn’t dare to accept something that the empress dowager had given to Matriarch He.
She quickly shook her head. “Grandmother, there’s no need for that. My body’s perfectly healthy! If I take in more nutrients, I’ll get fat!”
“You’re worried about getting fat with such a tiny figure?” Matriarch He smiled broadly.
“Grandmother, if you really want to give it away, why not give it to Mother instead?”
Matriarch He froze for a moment and sighed. “Child, you’re always thinking of others.”
Chu Lian looked up at Matriarch He’s affectionate expression. “Mother is my husband’s very own mother. How could Mother be counted as an outsider?”
Warmth suffused Matriarch He’s heart and she poked Chu Lian’s little nose. “Sanlang’s wife, you really are such a good child. Alright, Grandmother will send some red bird’s nest to your mother. You had better take some back with you too.”
Since the matriarch had already put it this way, it would be unreasonable if Chu Lian continued declining.
Eldest Young Madam had arrived outside sometime while they were talking. She just so happened to overhear Matriarch He’s words upon entering. She lowered her head and frowned a little.
Since Madam Zou’s back was to the light, no one noticed the expression on her face.
A maidservant lifted up the curtain at the entrance of the room and let Madam Zou in.
“Grandmother.” After Madam Zou bobbed in greeting, she sat at Matriarch He’s other side.
Matriarch He smiled as she looked at Madam Zou. “Dalang’s wife, why have you come here so early?”
There was no change in the expression on Madam Zou’s face at all. The corner of her lips lifted elegantly. “Grandmother, have you forgotten? It’s rest day for all the stewards in our estate today.”
Every day, Madam Zou had to listen to all the stewards of every courtyard in the estate make their report. She would only come to Qingxi Hall to greet the matriarch when she was done. After that, she would visit her mother-in-law.
“That’s right, it’s the sixteenth today. Grandmother’s forgotten all about the date.”
Madam Zou exchanged small talk with the matriarch for some time, but seeing that Matriarch He didn’t mention the red bird’s nest at all, she couldn’t help but feel disappointed.